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W.Va. emergency response agency brings aboard a critic, hoping to broaden viewpoints

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Shana Clendenin is a flood victim and the mayor of a town recovering from a catastrophic flood.

She has also been a critic of how the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management handles federal disaster relief funds.

Those are actually the main reasons Homeland Security and Emergency Management wants to hire her.

“We desire some of our employees to have been flood victims and have experience with relief efforts and the general non-DHSEM side of what happens before, during and after disasters,” agency spokeswoman Lora Lipscomb stated in response to MetroNews questions.

“In that light, we approached Ms. Clendenin to accept a position within DHSEM.”

Shana Clendenin

Clendenin, who is not running for re-election as the mayor of Clendenin, is taking a job as Operations Officer and Watch Center supervisor.

The job does not relate directly to the grant oversight issues where she has been critical of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Clendenin, reached by telephone last week, said the job equates to a statewide 911 center supervisory position. One of her past jobs was a 911 center operator in Kanawha County.

She will lead a 24x7x365 team that monitors calls about arson, environmental spill alerts, mine and industrial accident rapid response, safe schools, tips involving mines and industrial workers and other calls.

Emergency Management says Clendenin’s background makes her a good fit.

“She has the experience, expertise, and ability to perform well in this position,” Lipscomb stated.

“This consideration centered on the fact that she has served in a dispatch center, been a flood victim, actively worked with project worksheets and can serve as a DHSEM employee with knowledge of a victim’s and applicant’s point of view.”

Lipscomb indicated that future hires by the agency might also be people who have dealt with it from the other side.

“As we hire additional people, we will seek similar backgrounds by seeking and hiring individuals with all-round experience,” Lipscomb stated. “This process is an effort to reshape the overall culture of DHSEM.”

In her role as mayor, Clendenin has made critical comments about how the agency handles the oversight of federal grant money as it flows to communities recovering from disaster.

She made those statements to the Governor’s Office, to legislators and to media.

Her comments have been in line with findings in multiple audits.

Dean Jeffries

Delegate Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha, has worked with Clendenin on many of those issues.

Asked about Clendenin’s new role, Jeffries said she is an intriguing choice.

“She has been on them for a long time about the situation in Clendenin. I would say in that time she has had to educate herself about the process, flood insurance, FEMA, the paperwork procedures,” Jeffries said. “I would say she’s got a pretty good grasp of it.”

He continued, “As far as hiring her after her criticizing the agency, that is interesting.”

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